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Abstracta Iranica

Volume 24 (2003)
Comptes rendus des publications de 2001

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Benno van Dalen

World-Maps for Finding the Direction


and Distance to Mecca. Innovation and
Tradition in Islamic Science. Series:
Islamic Philosophy, Theology and
Science, Text and Studies 36, Leiden
(Brill) / London (Furqan Foundation),
1999. (Awarded the world prize for
the Book of the Year of the Islamic
Republic of Iran for the year 2000).
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Rfrence lectronique
Benno van Dalen, World-Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance to Mecca. Innovation and Tradition in Islamic
Science. Series: Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science, Text and Studies 36, Leiden (Brill) / London (Furqan
Foundation), 1999. (Awarded the world prize for the Book of the Year of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the year
2000)., Abstracta Iranica [En ligne], Volume 24|2003, document 189, mis en ligne le 05 janvier 2010, consult le
28 juillet 2016. URL: http://abstractairanica.revues.org/34578
diteur : CNRS / Institut Franais de Recherche en Iran
http://abstractairanica.revues.org
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Document accessible en ligne sur :
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World-Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance to Mecca. Innovation and Tradition in I (...)

Benno van Dalen

World-Maps for Finding the Direction


and Distance to Mecca. Innovation and
Tradition in Islamic Science. Series:
Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science,
Text and Studies 36, Leiden (Brill) / London
(Furqan Foundation), 1999. (Awarded the
world prize for the Book of the Year of the
Islamic Republic of Iran for the year 2000).
1

This beautifully executed book with numerous colour photographs deals with two fascinating
metal instruments that surfaced in 1989 and 1995 (a third copy was identified too late to be
included in the study). Both consist of a world-map centered around Mecca with a rule that
enables one to read off the qibla (sacred direction for Muslim prayer) of more than one hundred
localities engraved on the map as well as their distance from Mecca. The metalwork is clearly
Safavid and can be dated to approximately the year 1700. Only on one of the two instruments
the European types of compass and sundial that were originally attached to both are still extant
(as they are, in fact, on the third instrument).
The most important aspect of the instruments treated in the book is the origin of the
mathematically highly complicated grid of the world-maps. Whereas the meridians (lines
of constant longitude difference from Mecca) are straight lines, the latitude curves can be
mathematically shown to be ellipses and are approximated by circles on the instrument.
The author shows convincingly that the design of the grid fitted very well in the Islamic
mathematical tradition and was within the technical reach of such brilliant scholars as aba
al-sib (19th century Baghdad and Samarra) and al-Brn (Ghazna, early 11th century).
Furthermore, he shows that the coordinates of the localities on the two instruments were
derived from a geographical table from a Timurid source somewhat later than Ulu Beg and
presumably compiled in Kish near Samarkand.
The book under review is of interest for a much wider audience than those interested in
instruments or the Safavid period. The introductory chapters deal with numerous aspects
of Islamic astronomy in general and instruments and geographical tables in particular. The
various appendixes contain detailed studies of many of the sources used in the book. Extensive
indexes make the goldmines of information in the nine chapters readily accessible. The very
low price of only 50 euros makes the book one of the best buys in history of science of the
last decade.
Pour citer cet article
Rfrence lectronique
Benno van Dalen, World-Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance to Mecca. Innovation and
Tradition in Islamic Science. Series: Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science, Text and Studies
36, Leiden (Brill) / London (Furqan Foundation), 1999. (Awarded the world prize for the Book of
the Year of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the year 2000)., Abstracta Iranica [En ligne], Volume
24|2003, document 189, mis en ligne le 05 janvier 2010, consult le 28 juillet 2016. URL: http://
abstractairanica.revues.org/34578

Abstracta Iranica, Volume 24 | 2003

World-Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance to Mecca. Innovation and Tradition in I (...)

propos de lauteur
Benno van Dalen
J. W. Goethe-Universitt - Frankfurt

Droits dauteur
Tous droits rservs
Entres dindex
Rubriques :10. Histoire des Sciences et des Techniques

Abstracta Iranica, Volume 24 | 2003